Happy Thanksgiving — there is so much for which I am thankful

This Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for the blessings in my life, including friends and family, being an American citizen, and having Trump as my president.

Norman Rockwell Freedom From Want Thanksgiving

(This is a companion post to my 34th podcast [and second rather primitive YouTube video], both of which you can find here.)

Years ago, I instituted a family tradition at our Thanksgiving table that asked everyone – after dinner, of course – to state what they are thankful for. I thought I’d share with you the myriad things that make me thankful in 2019.

I am very blessed to be rich in family and friends – and let me tell you, it was hard work. When I was young, I was a prickly, judgmental, snobby person. Part of it was because I was bullied a lot for being short, skinny, near-sighted, and all around kind of weird.

This is not a sob story, though. In the hierarchy of normal children’s behavior, I was a walking target and, in retrospect, it makes perfect sense that other kids picked on me. And as it happened, I had my defenses. My response was to hit people back first . . . using words,  not fists or feet.

I became expert at nasty sarcasm. Ironically enough, the more I liked someone, whether it was a girl with whom I wished to be friends or a boy upon whom I had a crush, the more nasty I was. It suited me to reject them first, rather than to have them reject me out of the box.

The other part of my problem was that I was raised by a very charming European mother and I mimicked her behavior. Unfortunately, what was charming in a 40-something European lady was not so charming in an American teenager. Additionally, I mimicked her less charming traits, so that I was judgmental and rigid beyond my years.

How did I finally change? In my teens, I read Dale Carnegie’s timeless How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book’s lesson is simple: Being nice to people and honestly admiring their strengths and virtues will usually lead to them being nice and helpful to you.

As I said, a simple book but it took me another 30 years to understand its message. Knowing you need to change your behavior and actually changing your behavior are two different things. Thankfully, helped by age, teaching my children, and getting good advice, I finally gained the wisdom to make a conscious decision to be a more congenial person. This meant:

  • Being less judgmental
  • Being less arrogant
  • Being less rigid
  • Being less self-involved
  • Freely handing out honest compliments
  • Believing with all my heart that everyone has something interesting to say if only you ask the right questions

The benefits of taking this new approach with both my family and friends – or potential friends – has been staggering. As I said at the beginning of this post, I am rich in loving family and good friends.

This kind of emotional wealth is no small thing. As one 2010 study showed, “people with strong social relationships increased their odds of survival over a certain time period by 50 percent….” Not only do friends help you live longer, having friends means you’ll be healthier too.

While I don’t cultivate friendships in a cold-blooded merely to gain health and long-life – cold-bloodedness probably negates those benefits anyway – I’m grateful that the relationships I’ve learned how to cultivate have a real benefit for me.

With every passing year, one of the things that makes me most grateful is living in America. I’m not alone. I’ve repeatedly recommended Keith Richburg’s Out of America : A Black Man Confronts Africa. In it, Richburg explains how a stint in the early 1990s as the Washington Post’s African bureau chief left him incredibly grateful that his long ago ancestors suffered the pain, fear, humiliation, and other horrors of the Atlantic trade and slavery in America so that he could be a black man in America and not in Africa. No matter your color or ethnicity, being born in America is a blessing.

I am incredibly grateful that I live in a country governed by a Constitution dedicated to individual liberty. It’s true that we have often fallen short of the goals expressed in that document. Indeed, in the mid-19th century, we fought a Civil War with the loss of over 600,000 lives to right our most grievous fall from grace. Nevertheless, the Constitution is our lodestar and establishes a clear realm of individual liberty, a sphere free from government interference, unlike anything else in the world, here or abroad and past or present.

In the rest of the world, constitutions are just endlessly lengthy recitations of privileges the government sees fit to accord to citizens and rules by which citizens must live. Only in America does the constitution say that the government serves at the will of the people and that the people have inviolable rights that the government can infringe upon only after making the strongest showing of necessity. That’s something for which we should all be grateful.

I am thankful that I live in a society that (at least until recently) is the most non-anti-Semitic society in the world outside of Israel itself. Sadly, anti-Semitism is creeping into America. Progressives and Democrats like to blame white supremacists, whom they define as Republicans, but the reality is that white supremacists are totalitarians who have attached themselves to the fringes of the Republican party only because the Democrat Party has, since 1964, been the political home for African Americans. Let me repeat the word “fringes.”

The sad reality is that the Democrat Party has become anti-Semitic at its very core. I need only point to Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the new darlings of the party, as Exhibit A for the Left’s rising anti-Semitism. Go to any college campus (a hotbed of American Progressivism) or to the New York Times or Washington Post to see anti-Semitism that appears either as open Jew hatred or as Jew hatred disguised (not so skillfully) as anti-Zionism. The only consolation is that I see some Jews catching on. They’re struggling with the fact that their political home is hate-filled, but they’re figuring it out. Without Jews (and, as I’ll discuss below, without blacks) the Democrats are politically doomed.

I am thankful to live in a country with a consistent abundance of food. On that subject, did you know that, by the time of the American Revolution, colonial Americans were, on average, three inches taller than their European fore-bearers and compatriots. Indeed, throughout the 18th and 19th century, European travelers commented on the abundance of food available in America.

These travelers didn’t comment, as they do now, to condemn Americans for their profligacy, greed, and gluttony. Their comments were driven by admiration and envy. Everywhere one traveled in America, there was food and lots of it.

In other words, the huge portion sizes we enjoy today are not a sign of modern American decadence. They are a grand American tradition that enabled us to grow children taller, stronger, and healthier than children anywhere else in the world.

The difference between now and then isn’t the amount of food we eat, it’s the amount of activity we get. Americans ate well before cars, TVs, and computers. We still eat well, we just don’t move enough. Still, when one considers that, for the greatest part of human history, scarcity and famine was the norm, we are singularly blessed.

I am thankful that I live in a society rich in material goods. American enterprise and competition have made it so every person in America can live as well as if not much better than a king in days of old (an idea I stole from Glenn Reynolds).

While Blue State progressives may inveigh against Walmart as an evil enterprise that destroys small businesses and floods America with cheap goods, the fact is that Walmart and stores like it have been an extraordinary blessing for poor people — and the poor know it. When a Walmart finally opened in the San Francisco Bay Area, in Oakland, back in 2005, over 10,000 people applied for jobs.

Although California had a minimum wage back then, it wasn’t wildly above the market rate (and, for all I know, might even have slipped below it). By 2016, though, Oakland had repeatedly raised its minimum wage and Walmart pulled out of the City again.

The citizens of Oakland, rather than being delighted to have that evil store leave were upset. According to a local ABC news report:

“When I saw that in the news, I thought, ‘Oh no, I’ll either have go farther out or don’t go,'” said shopper Gayla Morris.

“Please don’t close this store, I need this store, I need this store,” said shopper Paula Cook.


“This in is the busiest one. Everybody I know comes here,” explained Francesca Cataldi, also avid Walmart shopper.

Walmart serves the Americans who can’t afford the luxury of sweaters from hand-raised Mohair goats or organic arugula and small-batch brewed, all-natural root beer. It’s for the rest of us, and thank goodness for it and for the stores like it.

(I used to count Target in that number, but I’ve disliked strongly Target’s decision to stop just selling its products and to start selling its values.)

I am thankful for America’s beautiful natural environment. Part of it is wise stewardship. We are lucky that Teddy Roosevelt was a nature lover and realized that there were some extraordinary areas in America that needed to be preserved for posterity’s sake. Of late, under Obama, the federal government went a bit haywire seizing land for the National Park Service, but overall I’m glad that America’s gems, both natural and historic, are being saved.

That America has a beautiful environment isn’t just because the government set off some lands. It’s also because we are a free and wealthy country. There is nothing dirtier than a communist country. Long after America had wised up and cleaned up, communist countries were still filthy. I saw this in communist Czechoslovakia in the mid-1980s, when the air was so thick with pollution you could cut it.

Nor is my Czech memory just a thing of the past. Communism is still filthy. This is a picture I took at the Beijing airport three years ago. The haze in the background isn’t bad camera technique. It’s smog inside the terminal:

Once outside the terminal, things were worse. This is Tiananmen Square:

It takes technological innovation to come up with the means to avoid pollution and wealth, of the free market kind not the dictator kind, to put that innovation into effect. We are blessed that we breath clean air and drink clean water.

I won’t lie. I love and am incredibly grateful for President Trump.

I love that Trump puts America first. Contrary to Democrat claims, Trump’s America First-ism is entirely different from “Today Washington, D.C., tomorrow the world.” As was true for George Washington before him, Trump believes that his job as president is to eschew foreign entanglements unless they benefit America and to put American domestic interests (the economy, national security, and individual liberty) ahead of the interests of people from other nations.

I love it that Trump is trying to reinstate the rule of law, especially when it comes to enforcing a border. No border means no country. Moreover, as Milton Friedman wisely remarked, you can’t have a welfare system and an open border.

I love it that, all Democrat protestations to the contrary, Trump is a color-blind president. He doesn’t love white Americans or black Americans or brown Americans or any other color American. He loves Americans — all of them. The same holds true for his views about gender and sexual orientation. When he takes steps that unleash the economy or increase national security or the reliability of the rule of law, that benefits everyone.

I love it that Trump fights back. We had gentlemanly presidents when we had Bush senior and junior. And we had a gentlemanly, and (as it turned out) utterly craven and backstabbing, presidential candidate in Mitt Romney. They were mediocre presidents (the Bushes) and horrible candidates (Romney). Now, though, we have a fighter. Trump doesn’t throw the first punch but, when it comes to defending himself, his family, his values, and American values, he will counter-punch again and again until he wins.

I love it that Trump is a happy warrior. The picture I used to illustrate this portion of my post is one that Trump tweeted out himself. He can laugh at himself and, of course, he enjoys that, when he does so, those who oppose him fail to see the humor and become more inflamed and deranged than ever before.

I love it that Trump believes that American taxpayer money should be spent for American taxpayers and not for other nations, especially highly corrupt ones. When I look at the Democrats’ “Trumped”-up Ukraine scandal, all I see is a president fighting to keep American taxpayer money from falling into corrupt hands in foreign countries. Bless him for doing so.

I love it that Trump supports Israel, a tiny island of liberal democracy routinely attacked by genocidal religious fanatics. Trump understands that Israel is America’s staunchest ally and that Israel’s enemies are also America’s enemies, whether Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah or any of the other nations and terrorist organizations in thrall to a religion that demands world domination and the forced conversion, enslavement, or death of anyone unlucky enough to be in its path.

I love it that Trump believes that the money Americans earn is theirs, and not merely a temporary loan from the IRS. He’s done a lousy job reining in the federal budget, but I forgive him given the fact that the Democrats have refused to allow him to govern for his four year term. Considering the constant barrage aimed at him, it’s remarkable that he’s accomplished as much as he has.

I love it that Trump believes campaign promises are something to be kept, rather than something to be reneged upon. This is especially true because I liked the promises upon which Trump campaigned.

I love it that Trump, working with Mitch McConnell, is doing his damndest to place on the federal bench judges who believe that they are bound by the Constitution and the laws of the United States. This is a refreshing change from judges who believe that their Progressive ideology vests in them some higher wisdom that allows them to make it up as they go along.

I am incredibly grateful that the American people, in their infinite wisdom, elected Donald Trump as our president. I hope that in 2020, they not only reelect him, but that they give him a Congress that is willing to work with him.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. We in America are truly blessed and it’s wonderful that we have a day to take stock of our blessings.